FEATURED ANGLER PROFILE
Tell us about yourself: I grew up in the Pittsburgh suburbs and still live there. Outdoor activities were always a part of my life - a heritage passed from my father and his before him. Hiking, camping, hunting and fishing around western Pennsylvania. We were of modest means growing up so my activities were always fairly local. I’ve ranged a bit since then of course and love the CO mountains and the desert southwest but I have to admit I still feel most at home in a countryside of rolling hills, farms and woodlands rather than in the larger mountains of the west. That sort of setting is just a part of me I guess. I’d have made a good non-adventurous hobbit I think and felt quite at home in the Shire. I’ve lived in State College while attending Penn State (where I took up fly fishing) and also in Maine while in grad school. But I’ve been back in the Pittsburgh area since about 1997.
Tenkara history: I began fly fishing around 1992 and then I took up the stick and string of tenkara in 2009. Man has it been that long?! I reckon it will be 14 years then in October. I still break out the rod and reel from time to time. I do enjoy messing about with euro-nymphing techniques but the vast majority of my trout fishing is with tenkara rods.
Favorite rod: I’m biased. It’s not the greatest rod ever made - far from it I suspect. But the rod I’ve spent more time fishing than any other is the rod that I helped to create, the Three Rivers Tenkara Confluence. There’s something to be said for picking a rod and sticking with it I think (assuming that the rod is half-way decent). When you fish a rod a lot, you just get so used to it that you fish better. You cast better and land more fish. You know how it performs and don’t worry about it. If I’m not going with that sentimental favorite, next up is probably the Tanuki Tenkara 375.
Favorite fish: I’ll probably catch it for this … being from Appalachia I’m probably supposed to say the brook trout. But … I love catching brown trout.
Favorite book: There are so many that I love. But I have probably read (or listened to the audio book version of) The Lord of the Rings more than anything else. So … maybe not the most cerebral answer I could give but it’s honest at least.
Favorite fly: Choosing a favorite fly is like choosing a favorite child. And frankly I’m a bit fickle when it comes to flies. They come in and out of my life like moods. There are a few that are always in my box though, whatever the flavor of the season is. A beadhead muskrat nymph, my variation of a bead-head pheasant tail nymph, a soft-hackle caddis pupa, and a variation of a Pass Lake Special wet fly. But a curious thing, and I hadn’t really thought about it till I read this question but maybe my favorite is a Brown Hackle Peacock wet fly. It’s simply a peacock herl body, with a brown hen hackle and a tail of hackle fibers. I think you usually see it with a red tail, but I use brown (or maybe just leave it off). In a few sizes it is just a great simulacrum of so many aquatic bugs from mayfly nymphs to caddis pupa to stonefly nymphs. It looks like nothing in particular and so a bit like everything. Fish it deep, shallow, dead drifted or on a swing or lift - depending on what the fish want.
Favorite place to fish: The first stream that I cast a fly upon was Spring Creek outside of State College, Pennsylvania. I remember the day very clearly. I have fished Spring Creek more than any other stream. It’s my “home” stream. It’s a limestone spring creek and so I have a real soft spot for limestone streams of Pennsylvania and also those in the Wisconsin driftless. I know that a valley limestone stream is not the “natural” setting for tenkara but it’s the water I love to fish. Limestone streams feel somehow genteel and tweedy. It appeals to that whole hobbit village lifestyle I yearn for I guess.
Favorite quote: Do you remember that movie “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray? Bill’s character suffers from all sorts of phobias and anxieties and his therapist gives him a sort of mantra to use. He suggests that he think about things in “Baby Steps”.So as silly as it sounds I find myself relying on that mantra all the time. Whenever I’m starting a large task be it physical or mental, and I’m feeling overwhelmed I just think to myself “Baby Steps”. And it really helps me.
Though if you’re looking for a fishing quote, this is one of my favorites:
“... ‘sophisticated angler’ is an oxymoron. And if it wasn't, it would be nothing to strive for. Angling is where the child, if not the infant, gets to go on living.”
-Thomas McGuane, The Longest Silence